Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was on Bloomberg TV this morning in a wide ranging interview.
At one point he was asked about Amazon, which has been under scrutiny for its work culture after a brutal New York Times report.
In the Times’ story, Jeff Bezos is quoted in 2003 as saying he doesn’t want Amazon to turn into a “country club” like Microsoft. If that were to happen, Bezos said Amazon “would die.” In 2003, Ballmer was running Microsoft.
Bloomberg asked Ballmer what he thought of Bezos’ reported comments.
Initially, Ballmer was kind, noting that Amazon competes with Microsoft in cloud computing. He also noted that Amazon competes with Microsoft for talent. Both companies are based in Seattle.
But then, Ballmer’s comments shifted, and he was more cutting.
“I think they are a place people don’t want to work. Anybody who ever left from Microsoft [for Amazon] we could count on them coming back in a year or two because it’s just not a great place to work to do innovative stuff as an engineer.”
He added that “many, many” people “round trip” leaving Microsoft, going to Amazon, and then returning to Microsoft.
This is a somewhat strange thing to say since Amazon is tackling some of the biggest technical challenges in the world. Its AWS cloud service, for instance, is the backbone of the startup economy. Big companies like Netflix rely on Amazon’s web service to stream its video.
Marc Andreessen, the VC behind Andreessen Horowitz, responded to Ballmer’s comments about Amazon’s engineers on Twitter, quipping: “Is it Opposite Day again and nobody told me?”
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.